Kiwis star on Hambletonian Day
By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk
Dexter Dunn had no luck in the $1m feature, but still had a Hambletonian Day to remember.
The 31-year-old registered four wins and four placings on harness racing’s biggest day in North America to be the most successful driver at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. The next best was Tim Tetrick with three wins.
The day's biggest race, the $1m Hambletonian was won by the Ake Svanstedt-trained and driven Captain Corey. He led all the way after a :26 opening quarter, the fastest opening fraction in the race’s 96-year history. Dunn and Really Fast broke during the running and finished second last.
But Dunn was still a major force at the Big M.
In the Hambletonian Oaks for the three-year-old fillies Dunn was successful with Bella Bellini. After being three wide around the final turn Bella Bellini stormed to victory with a :26.3 last quarter, the equal fastest in the race’s history. She has won seven of 11 starts this year
"She’s so fast," Dunn told the US Trotting Association, "I was confident she could pick them up."
It was his first Oaks triumph and the third for fellow ex-pat Kiwi, trainer Nifty Norman.
"It doesn’t get old, I’ll tell you that," said Norman, "hopefully we will win many more. It’s great fun. I love it. I love this race."
Norman had four winners on the 16-race programme, including a quinella in race 2 with Grace Hill (Andrew McCarthy) and Fire Start Hanover (Dexter Dunn). His other winners were Venerable (David Miller) and Seriously Hanover (Dexter Dunn) in the last of the day.
Dunn also won with superstar trotter Manchego in the John Cashman Memorial, and Rockyroad Hanover in the Cane Pace.
Manchego only just withstood a late charge from Beads.
"I actually thought I got beat, to be honest," said Dunn after the race, "she just didn’t give me the usual strong kick that she does, but probably her greatness showed through for fighting on the straight like she did."
It was the six-year-old mare’s sixth win in seven starts this year and her 39th from 63 overall.
As well as Dunn’s four wins (Rockyroad Hanover, Manchego, Seriously Hanover and Bella Bellini) he was also second with Fire Start Hanover (R2) and Chaptiama (R8) and third with Ethan T Hanover (R3) and Fast As The Wind (R9).
Dunn now has 282 wins for the year with stakes earnings of $5,424,756, second only to Tim Tetrick ($6,093,560). His win total places him eighth overall, with Aaron Merriman way out in front with 478 for the year.